Seeing Argentina’s Dirty War through the eyes of a young girl

By Audrey A. Binette

The room filled up slowly, but storyteller Marta Singh managed to gather about 50 people to her talk held at Concordia in November. After a brief introduction, Singh stood on the little podium before us and without warning started to tell us her story in a little voice. We soon understood that this was the voice of her 9-year-old self who was living in Argentina in the 1970s. Her story is not a heartbreaking one in terms of graphic content, although it features the slow and painful realization of the lie she was living. Singh transports us into her universe and into her political awakening against her own family who ‘’knew nothing’’ about the issues of the time. The little girl was questioning her family but never got a satisfying answer on what was going on in her country.

I was surprised at first because I was not expecting this kind of performance, but once I caught on it was really interesting to just listen to her story. Her story was touching because she was able to put in perspective a slice of history we are surely all familiar with. She made us see the story from the inside by putting a very human face to it, the discovery of human rights abuses by a little girl.

Singh grew up during the time of the Dirty War in Argentina, which has been described as a form of state terrorism. Through the 1970s, the country’s military used guerilla warfare tactics against its citizens to silence political unrest and repress ideas of socialism. Singh was lucky enough to come from the better half of this divided country, therefore avoiding any direct violations to her own rights or threat of persecution. Her great uncle was a general in the military but her family kept quiet about what he was doing. Anytime she would ask a question about it, she would get turned away.

While growing up and learning history and politics in school she started to ask more question and wanted to know what her family knew about the repression. Every time she would ask her mother or godmother they would say “we knew nothing. Nothing!” Therefore Singh grew up in a protected bubble, unable to connect with the outside world. Listening to her, it was clear that she felt disgusted and betrayed when she started to understand where she stood in society and what she was being sheltered from.

As she went on with her story and as I understood her own evolution and growth, the story kept on getting better. I was left hanging a little bit so I really appreciated the time allocated for questions and explanations at the end. Overall it was a great experience and a different way of looking at historical event, by forcing us to take off our scholar’s hat to look at something with a more human mindset.

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